Ruling the Bollyood marquee and on her way to make a Hollywood debut with xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, Deepika Padukone is not just a pretty actress but a powerhouse of talent. She’s been one of the few in her league to have opened up about issues usually swept under the carpet – mental health, for instance. Last year, she addressed the issue of depression, stating how she too was a victim of the condition and encouraged others to accept it and talk about it. She launched the Live, Love, Laugh foundation in June last year and, through it, has launched a Mental Health Awareness programme for High School students and teachers in Bangalore. It aims to roll out programmes for 500 schools by the end of 2017. Manju Ramanan maps out the choices of the versatile actor and influencer (Includes excerpts from interviews with Jitesh Pillaai and Sandipan Dalal)
What is the Live, Love, Laugh Foundation?
The Live Love Laugh Foundation (TLLLF), a not for profit organization which aims to raise awareness of mental health in India, has announced the launch of You Are Not Alone, a program focused on educating high school students and teachers on stress, anxiety and depression, while also aiming to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health. The Foundation’s flagship schools program commenced on 23rd March 2016 with two to three sessions for students and teachers to be held at Sophia’s High School in Bangalore, which happens to my alma mater. We believe that schools can be the first line of defence for emotional and mental health disorders in our youth and we look forward to working closely with school managements to enhance mental health awareness in these institutions. The launch of You Are Not Alone is our humble attempt to equip school students and teachers to deal with mental health challenges that they, their friends or their family members may confront.
What does an average session for students entail?
It includes a session for students, which involves talking to students about depression to build their understanding of how such disorders could affect them or their peers, and to facilitate effective self-help and increase their sensitivity towards supporting their friends and family. The idea is to encourage them to speak about this openly and seek help if they are affected by anxiety and depression.
What about teachers?
This entails sensitising teachers and school authorities to the various signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, so they are better able to support or seek the requisite professional help for vulnerable students. The Foundation is also inviting applications from other schools around the country to register themselves for this
free program, which will be conducted by the Foundation’s staff as well as by other partner organizations.
You also are the Director of the Olympics Gold Quest?
The Olympics Gold Quest is a charitybased forum that supports deserving sportspeople of which my father, former badminton champion Prakash Padukone is a major part. Being an athlete myself I have been part of baseball, badminton and basketball, I see tremendous potential in cricket and badminton. There are so many talented players in India but they lack the resources to make it happen and hence go unrecognized. The Olympic Gold Quest supports athletes who have the potential to make it big at the Olympics. We keep track of sports people, watch athletes perform and support those deserving completely through equipment, coaching, travel etc. As a celebrity, this is something I always wanted to do and I joined my father as well as snooker champion Geet Sethi in his venture.
All this and then your super successful films Piku, Tamasha, Bajirao Mastani and then the Filmfare Award for Best Actress?
There has been a phase of my life that enlightened me. Self-discovery happened, so did a lot of learning and heartbreak. When I came into the industry, I believed a heroine had to be a certain way – that is have a certain length of hair, possess a certain body type, wear certain type of clothes, speak in a certain way. I fell into
the stereotype trap of what a heroine should be. And then in Om Shanti Om, because I was presented so beautifully, I genuinely believed that it’s going to be like this in every film of mine. That someone would be watching my back. Like Farah Khan would push me and say, ‘Baby do it like this and say it like this’. I believed every director was going to be like that. But it didn’t turn out like that.
Eventually, I realised, it’s not going to be like that. Back then it was a predominantly male-dominated setup. I realised that I’d have to take care of myself. Also, earlier I’d fight the system. I’d try to fit in. I was not a movie kid. But I’d pretend like I knew everything about the movies. When I’d attend film parties, I realised that people only talk about films. I’d either try to change the topic or I’d go completely silent. Or I’d just leave the party because I felt so awkward being there. I’ve lied so many times. People would ask have you seen this film and I’d say yeah, of course. On a good day I’d get away with it. On a bad day if someone questioned me about it I’d be trapped.
Did success then give you any self assurance?
Eventually, I wondered why I was lying. It’s okay if you’ve come from a different background where we didn’t breathe, eat and sleep films. Even today, I’ve a lot of catching up to do. I’ve not watched some of the classics. But I’m comfortable enough today to say that I’ve not watched a Sholay or Mughal-E-Azam. Today when I go to a party, I don’t have to socialise. I don’t have to make conversation with everyone. I’m okay watching people and sitting quietly on the side. And yes, people do come up and ask, ‘Are you not okay? You’re looking off’. I’m not off, this is me. This is who I am. I’m not someone who can unnecessarily make conversation with people. I’m more comfortable sitting with the few people I have an equation with.
What keeps you beautiful?
I prefer to keep my hair and make up simple and non-fussy. Happiness is key to looking beautiful. Ranveer Singh, she admits, is the one who compliments her the most. “He doesn’t hold back at all.”
Who has been Deepika Padukone’s beauty icon?
Princess Diana. She was not only strikingly beautiful but also had an aura of calm and peace around her despite the turmoil in her personal life. I greatly admired her for the person she was and the work she did.
What’s your basic beauty routine?
I don’t believe in doing much to my skin and hair. I just moisturise and apply sunscreen during the day. Once I’m home in the evening, I remove my makeup with baby wipes and just apply night cream. I drink plenty of water to keep myself hydrated. I use coconut oil on my hair once a week.
Are you undergoing any specific physical training for your role in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage?
I’m doing a lot more cardio, functional training and weight training to look my part. I will also be doing stunt training in Los Angeles.
What’s your current diet?
Currently, I am on a high-protein diet, and I am eating every two hours. I don’t believe in consuming supplements and rely on natural foods. This is something I have learned from my father who has been in great shape all his life, without ever relying on any supplements.
One compliment you hear often from fellow actors?
‘Oh my God, you are so fit!’
Excerpts from Sandipan Dalal’s interview, where Deepika fills in the blanks
I wash my face every…morning.
I wash my hair…every three or four days.
My favourite beauty splurge… spa treatments. I’m a sucker for massages and frequent the spa at least thrice a month.
If someone opened my powder room cabinet, they would find…surplus stock of essentials like toothpaste, soaps, toilet paper, etc. I hate to run out of supplies.
My best beauty discovery… exercising five times a week.
The makeup products I simply cannot live without are… moisturiser, sunscreen and body oil.
My beauty advice to Sonam Kapoor would be… I pass. I’m nobody to give beauty advice to anybody.
I do have my binge days when I relish desserts. Brownies or chocolate chip cookies with ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and Death by Chocolate from Corner House Ice Creams in Bangalore are some of my absolute favourites. I also enjoy street food like vada pav, chaat and masala dosa.
Photographs: Prasad Naik Stylist: Allia Al Rufai
Make-Up & Hair: Anil Chinappa Location Courtesy: ITC Grand Maratha